By Dillan Schorfheide

It’s almost weird to say that a team can be both young and experienced, but, in the case of the Charleston High School football team, it fits.

The Trojans will be rolling out a team this year that features a mix of returning starters and players stepping into bigger roles.

Charleston head coach Jerry Payne said he’s excited to be back out on the field and see his players get ready for the season.

“It’s been great,” he said. “Last week was great. All the coaches were pretty happy with everything. Kids are all coachable. It’s been good to be back.”

Payne said that his team consists of a healthy mix of upperclassmen and underclassmen. 

Charleston football players during practice last week.

There’s a small senior group, all of whom contributed to last year’s 2-7 season. And there is a large group of juniors who played good minutes as sophomores last year. There’s a big sophomore group who will contribute as well.

The junior class is going to be important with its experience, Payne said. “They played a bunch as sophomores,” Payne said. “It’s not like we don’t have the experience. We got a few of them that have stepped up in roles, but a lot of them had a lot of time last year.”

Payne said the younger team might start slow this season, but he expects them to find their stride.

Although the seniors are outnumbered on the roster this year, Payne looks forward to their guidance. Several seniors are slotted to play impact positions – Owen Gerdes was the starting center last season, Alex Stout was a top defensive lineman, and Jeremiah Hayes was a running back and key contributor on defense last year.

“They’re huge because they show up to everything, and that’s the big thing is they kind of lead the way,” he said.

Payne says he wants to improve tackling.

“We’ve worked very, very hard on tackling,” he said. “We think our tackling was not near where it needed to be last year,” Payne said.

Payne also wants to capitalize on blocking schemes that worked well.

The primary focus remains the same, though: Win the first game.

“That’s been our focus every year,” he said. “Yeah, we set some other goals, but win the first game. We win the first game, then we’ll let the rest of the things happen as they go.”

Charleston opens the season Aug. 26, taking on non-conference opponent Herscher on the road.